Marvels of the Mughals
You have traveled all the way to see the Taj Mahal—now what? Fortunately, the city of Agra is dotted with spellbinding architecture
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, August 17, 2011
Fatehpur Sikri, Tomb of Salim Chisti. (© Aivar Mikko / Alamy)
In the 1560s, Akbar the Great visited a Sufi saint named Salim Chishti, 25 miles west of Agra. Two of Akbar’s sons had died, but the sage foretold the birth of another. In 1569, Jahangir, Akbar’s son and heir, was born. Two years later, before work on Agra Fort was even complete, Akbar broke ground on the construction of a dazzling complex, built in honor of the saint, on the ridge where he lived. He made the site his personal residence for 15 years, and then abandoned it because of water shortages and the threat of nearby aggressors.
Within Fatehpur Sikri, as its called, is Jama Masjid, a massive mosque built to hold 10,000 worshipers; the white marble tomb of Salim Chishti, who died in 1572; and, interestingly enough, one of the first known Pachisi courts. Pachisi—or Parcheesi, as it is known in the Western world—is a board game with origins in ancient India. Legend has it that Akbar set up a courtyard so that he could play it on a grand scale, with slave girls as game pieces. Life-size boards, including his, are the earliest evidence of the game being played.